Manny Sarmiento

August 18, 2022

Manny Sarmiento has just released a pitch. The dust at his feet is evidence of both the temporal proximity and the physical force of his effort. But this effort, it seems, has not produced its most optimal result, which would be the ball passing through the strike zone and safely reaching the mitt of Manny Sarmiento’s catcher. We don’t know the identity of Manny Sarmiento’s battery mate, but something about the flattened backdrop of this card suggests that it’s not Manny Sarmiento’s legendary teammate, Johnny Bench. The world we are seeing here is well off to the side of any powerful gods. The dust at Sarmiento’s feet is reminiscent of the most famous dusty aftermath baseball card, Johnny Bench’s renowned 1976 Topps image, but where Bench seems to have just restored order to the universe with Zeus-like lightning-bolt alacrity, Manny Sarmiento is recoiling, almost cringing, a portrait in kinetic apprehension. Who called for the flawed pitch? Was it Don Werner? Vic Correll? If the yellowy ghosts in the background are Pittsburgh Pirates, and if this photo is from the year before this 1979 card reached me, it was for certain one of these two understudies for the great Bench, as they were behind the plate for all of Manny Sarmiento’s 1978 appearances in Pittsburgh. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. We’re all connected in this pale, blurred, marginal world, and the results of all our efforts will rise beyond our power to control.


  1. A pale, blurred world just about sums up any attempt at digesting media of the period.

    Great piece!

  2. What a bizarre card. Nolan, Gullett, Billingham, Eastwick, McEnaney and Carroll are gone. Bill Plummer isn’t even around to catch Manny Sarmiento.

  3. Here’s my guess about the game. June 11, 1978 at Pittsburgh. Don Werner was the catcher. Sarmiento pitched the bottom of the 8th and allowed 2 runs and was the losing pitcher. My guess that this is Bill Robinson’s at bat which was a pop fly to 2nd base. Used what details I could manage from the card and baseball reference.com

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